Back to the Future of Traffic Planning


Understanding how Penang’s traffic has become as bad as it has requires us to see how the ideology of planning went wrong in recent times. Fortunately, rectifying this does not mean importing more new ideas. Penang’s old structure of connected villages could have served well as the base for modern town planning; and it may not be too late to go back to it.

When one thinks of Penang today, a few things come to mind: the best food in the world, living heritage, multiculturalism, the hills, the beaches, CAT governance and, inevitably, traffic jams.

Of late, the last has been worsening, so much so that the Guinness Book of World Records should be invited to visit Penang Island on a long weekend to marvel at what is indisputably the world’s largest car park.

An oft-repeated statistic also never fails to astonish: Road Transport Department data from 2009 reveals that there are about 1.75 million motor vehicles in Penang, compared to an adult population of roughly one million. Yes, that amounts to almost two vehicles per adult.

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